Cropsey to Expand its Farm Operations

BY MICHAEL CAHILL

Agreement between Town of Clarkstown and Rockland Farm Alliance resuscitates Rockland agriculture

The Clarkstown Town Council and members of the Rockland Farm Alliance gathered at Cropsey Farm in New City last Wednesday afternoon to announce a major expansion of the property, which will be farmed by the Rockland Farm Alliance.

The Rockland Farm Alliance (RFA) was founded in 2007 with the mission of preserving existing farmland in Rockland County. This mission has evolved to include a focus of local farming and sustainability. In June of 2010 the RFA, the Town of Clarkstown, and Rockland County signed a license agreement, allowing the RFA to farm five acres of publicly owned open space on the Cropsey Farm property.The land is owned jointly by the Town of Clarkstown (40%) and the county (60%).

President of the RFA, John McDowell called the inter-municipal, bipartisan agreement “cutting edge.” Since 2010 the agreement has become a model for other communities in the Hudson Valley looking to expand their local farming.

Now with Wednesday’s announcement, the 2010 agreement has been amended to include an additional seven acres of space, bringing the total scope of the RFA’s project on the property to 12 acres. The new field space will planted for the fall with a cover crop and several pest resistant crops such as leeks and onions.

Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack showed his appreciation for the project and echoed the sentiments of his council colleagues, calling the farm project an example of a town “putting people before politics.”

The RFA operated the initial five acres of Cropsey Farm last year with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. This model of farming invites those interested in the farm to become shareholders in its success.

With a CSA model, members contribute or pledge a certain amount of money for the year to cover operating costs. They in return, receive weekly shares of crops from the farm each week. Last year was a successful first harvest with over 200 families who participated as shareholders.

In addition to providing locally grown organic food to the county, the RFA in partnership with the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, coordinate outreach programs and workshops at Cropsey Farm. “We’ve been supporting the farm from the beginning, and are hoping to go even further during this second growing season,” said Chuck Stead, an environmental educator with Cornell University.

As part of the RFA’s educational mission they are training a new generation of farmers at Cropsey Farm. These farmers in training work long days learning to farm sustainably and will one day take over the operations of the farm. Caleb Iosso from Palisades started as a volunteer in June 2011. Now he is one of these young farmers learning the trade. Iosso majored in environmental studies at Pace University.

After graduation Iosso found his way to the Cropsey Farm and the RFA. “I graduated from college and didn’t really feel like I had enough life skills,” said Iosso. He’s now pursuing a self described “slightly different way of life”.

Arielle Bareket of Suffern is another of the young farmers. She graduated from Warren Wilson College in February 2011. Following her graduation she wanted to get involved in local farming, which lead her to Cropsey Farm. Bareket is one of the original volunteers and was there when they first began clearing the initial five acres. The farm now employs her, working 40 hours a week.

The RFA also offered internships with course credit for local students.

Cropsey Farm is located at 220 South Little Hi Tor Road in New City. Those interested in volunteer opportunities should visit the RFA’s website at http://www.rocklandfarm.org/ or contacts volunteer@rocklandfarm.org.

Cropsey Farm CSA memberships for this year are also still available. For more information visit http://cropseyfarm.org/about/membership-agreement/.